Current construction regulations ‘outdated’ and ‘inadequate’ – KTP President

Miguela Xuereb

The President of Kamra tal-Periti (KTP) has told that they have been urging government to update current building  construction regulations because they are both ‘outdated’ and ‘inadequate’.

The comment from KTP’s President Simone Vella Lenicker, is just one of a series of answers received by in relation to the sudden collapse of a three-storey apartment building and a home in Pietà on Wednesday night.

Watch: House and 3 storey apartment on Gwardamangia Hill collapse

While no one is understood to have been hurt in the incident, Vella Lenicker explains that the incident does raise points about whether it was preventable, who is at fault and wider considerations within the construction industry.

According to the government, there had been no reports about the contractor involved in the development and their paperwork was understood to be in order.  They have however stated that investigations are on-going, to investigate the cause.

No reports about Pieta contractor; paperwork in order – Government

Ms Vella Lenicker says the incident still raises ‘a number of questions.’

What is your reaction to the news about the building collapse?

Of course, a collapse like this is shocking and brings forth a number of questions about what could have been done to prevent this, who is at fault and whether the construction industry as a whole is taking all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of workers, neighbours and occupants alike. The fact that no one was hurt in this particular incident is welcome news, however this does not render the incident any less serious.

What kinds of regulations are in place for the construction and quality control of residential buildings in Malta?

The Kamra tal-Periti has been consistent over the past few years in calling on government to implement an overhaul of our current building and construction regulations which are not only outdated but also inadequate to cater for the complexity of projects and building materials used in contemporary developments.

Just two weeks ago, the Kamra presented its proposal for an updated suite of regulations to the Parliamentary Secretary Mr Chris Agius, which proposal was received positively and which we look forward to bringing into force without any undue delay. These proposals were endorsed by the Kamra‘s members at an Extraordinary General Meeting held last November.

Miguela Xuereb

What codes of conduct and duties must an architect carry out in preparing and carrying out a building project like this and what happens when such a situation like this arises? 

Architects and civil engineers (periti) are expected to exercise due diligence when being engaged to direct the execution of construction works. The Civil Code places the onus of responsibility for the integrity of structures on the perit and the contractor. It is up to the Courts to determine the attribution of tort to either party.

How are building contractors and workforces regulated and licenced to work on construction projects like this one?  

Building contractors and workmen are not licenced, nor are they regulated. This is one of the most serious failings of the industry. Anyone can claim to be a contractor, irrespective of their qualifications, capacity and capability of their workforce. Masons, on the other hand, are licenced by the State, however various requests by the Kamra tal-Periti for Government to publish a list of such authorised masons in the past months have so far proved futile. It is also pertinent to note that the training that masons receive is inadequate when compared to the varying nature of works carried out on site, and an urgent upgrading of the curriculum is required.

Who is responsible for inspecting construction works of residential buildings? How frequent are inspections and what is normally checked during a site visit?

The Building Regulation Authority and the Occupational Health and Safety Authority are both involved in the construction phase. Neither Authority is obliged to carry out inspection of the works, however they are authorised to carry out spot checks. They also generally follow up on reports made by third parties regarding the works. In terms of the project team, responsibility for inspections varies depending on the agreements between the various persons engaged by the developer. Nevertheless, the perit in charge should monitor the works as frequently as required depending on the nature of the works to be assured, as the expert engaged, that works are progressing in a satisfactory manner.

Miguela Xuereb

If and when an investigation is carried out, what role will Kamra Tal Periti play?

The Kamra tal-Periti is authorised by law to investigate allegations of breaches of professional conduct and the Periti Act by any Warrant Holder. At this stage, we are not in a position to comment further, in order not to prejudice the outcome of any investigations by the Kamra itself, or by the relevant authorities.

What is the likelihood of criminal proceedings in such cases?

This is for the Court to establish.